It’s no secret that babies love music. Most parents sing to their children, even those who thought they might never do such a thing, like my husband. Once he saw the soothing effect it had on our newborn or the joy it brought to our infant, he sang like a canary. Music is almost always happening in our house. Sometimes it’s Kidz Bop or Disney Radio, but sometimes it’s “Mom’s Music” or the infinitely inferior “Dad’s Music.” This is just what my husband and I prefer-to have music in our home. Unbeknownst to us, our preference could be having some great unintended consequences on our kids.
There are many ways in which an environment rich in music benefits developing infants and toddlers. Here are those that I found surprising:
- Counting: This shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. It’s much easier to learn to count through “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe…” than to listen to boring old Mom count apples at the grocery store. Anything learned with a rhythm and repetition is sure to have better staying power anyway. If not for “School House Rock,” I might never have learned to recite all 50 states in alphabetical order.
- Patterns and sequencing: Most nursery rhymes have some kind of sequence. A classic example would be “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” My daughter could most certainly recite “E-I-E-I-O” at just the right moment long before should would say her own name when asked. She knew which words preceded her solo and chimed in happily when needed. It never occurred to me that this was a way of practicing patterns but it sure makes sense now.
- Learning spoken language: I already knew that learning to play a musical instrument helps with language learning. Singing also helps, A toddler can learn the words to a simple song like “Happy Birthday to You” and then you can amend songs they know to apply to the current task or activity. In other words, to the same “Happy Birthday” melody you can try “Happy Bath Time to You, Happy Bath Time to You!” Now they’re hearing the difference and potentially adding additional words to their vocabulary.
While you may feel silly from time to time dancing and singing your kids’ favorite tunes, know that you are laying the foundation for many useful skills and concepts with music. You’re helping them with math, language, body identification, gross motor skills, and good old fashioned silliness. If you’re a bit rusty on your nursery rhymes, an hour or two with “Little Baby Bum” on Netflix or YouTube will have you on track to host your own music play date.